(l-r) Brian Wilson and Taylor Avazpour. Photo courtesy of Quality Hill Playhouse.
Quality Hill Playhouse’s I GOT RHYTHM, an evening of song and dance, features a set-list celebrating an era where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers reigned, and dance was the food of love.
In the hands of Taylor Avazpour, Amy Hurrelbrink, Stefanie Stevens, and a stellar three-piece band, led by music director and producing artistic director J. Kent Barnhart, we were treated to songs by Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, Cole Porter, Harry Warren, Scott Joplin, and the incomparable Irving Berlin.
Conceived and directed by Barnhart, who also served as the Emcee (Barnhart is quite the jack-of-all-trades), the production felt a little rocky at first but shuffled it’s way up the hill and found its voice in the second act. Opening with a collection of ballads, act two featured Porter’s “Dream Dancing” (a personal favorite) and Berlin’s “Change Partners.” By giving each actor, along with Barnhart, one piece of music with a strong arc and a similar connecting theme it allowed the production (and us) to slow down, tell a story and just be. It was one of several highlights of the evening.
And enhancing the production all the more was costumer Georgianna Londré Buchanan. Each costume fit the actors perfectly, evoked the glamor of the 30’s, and added the color and sparkle needed to the simple, but appropriate set by designer Atif Rome. When the actors stepped on stage in the second act, a ripple of “ohhhs” went through the audience.
But, it was Christina Burton’s choreography that stole my heart, especially in the hands of Avazpour. While Hurrelbrink and Stevens certainly held their own, it was clear that Avazpour was the more natural tap dancer. His upper body ease, the rubber knees, and the sharp shuffles made my tap-loving heart sing (someone needs to produce CRAZY FOR YOU and hire Avazpour to play Bobby Child). Much respect to both Burton and Avazpour for a tap solo in the second act that evoked thoughts of Fred Astaire, involved a top hat and cane, and was so difficult, so clean, and made to look so easy that I wished I could watch it again.
A revue/cabaret isn’t easy. You are asked to create individual moments with each song that may or may not connect to the moment that came before it, or will come after it. It’s a bit of a song study masterclass. When done well the show allows the songs, the actor and the moments to fly and I GOT RHYTHM does it well. It’s a beautiful thing to witness, and in Quality Hill’s intimate space we are treated to an evening of toe-tapping songs with genuine moments of understanding.
I GOT RHYTHM runs till February 19th. For more information visit qualityhillplayhouse.com